By Parveen Chopra
Did you know that you had two hearts? Two hearts that beat as one. And both, the emotional and the physical are necessary for your life
• When you wake up in the morning, close your eyes and put your attention in the middle of your body—your heart, your solar plexus, and your abdomen. Ask yourself how you are feeling emotionally, right now. Try to distinguish the feelings from the thoughts you are having. Are you feeling peaceful? excited, anxious, sad, angry, joyful, frustrated, guilty, loving, lonely, fulfilled, serious, playful?
If there seems to be an unhappy or upset feeling, go into that feeling and give it a voice. Ask it to talk to you and tell you what it is feeling. Really try to hear it and listen to its point of view: Be sympathetic, loving, and supportive towards your feelings. Ask if there is anything you can do to take better care of yourself. (Shakti Gawain in Living in the Light).
• Meditate on a blue, clear lake in your heart. Put all your problems into this bottomless lake. Let go of them. Now imagine walking into this shiny, bright lake, take a dip in it and see all your problems leave you.
• When you look at people, pour love through your eyes. When you walk, walk throwing love all around. In the beginning, it will just be imagination and within a month you will see it has become a reality. And others will start feeling that you have now become a warmer personality. (Osho).
• An asana called flapping wings is helpful in releasing constrictions in the chest area: Stand with your arms outstretched. Now stretch them backwards without bending the elbows so that you feel a pressure in your shoulder blades. Inhale and raise your chest up. Exhale. Keeping your opposite arms outstretched, bring your palms together in front of you, curving the spine slightly forward. Take your hands back while inhaling. Bring them forward while exhaling.
• Look into the mirror, and send yourself love through your eyes and say: ‘I love you.’ Do it at least five times and often.
• Appreciate life in general, develop a poet’s attitude. Marvel at even the mundane. Feel without thinking. Whether it is love or hatred, experience it directly without any mediator.
• Keep a pet. The unconditional love you feel for pets helps in opening your heart.
A Change of Heart
• Accept your limitations. Try to accept a situation which you cannot change. Some problems get worse if you can not exercise patience.
•Do not bottle up hostility, anger and other negative emotions in your mind. Admit them to a person you are close to, and speak about how you are trying to manage them.
• When angry, try to talk yourself out of it. Or just watch your anger arise. Try meditation whenever you become aware of cynical thoughts or angry feelings. Be forgiving when people do you wrong. Empathize with others.
• In Reiki, by Bodo J. Baginski and Shalila Sharamon, the authors give existential reasons for many illnesses, and the antidotes for each. The hardening of arteries, they claim, indicates resistance, tension, rigidity and narrow-mindedness. The cure lies in openness, flexibility, tolerance, affirmation of life and the the world around you.
High blood pressure arises when you haven’t expressed your thoughts and emotions over a long period. You are constantly living on the brink of conflict, without coming to any kind of conclusion, which puts you under continual pressure. The solution is to take a good look at your problems and at whatever else is annoying you. Feel your way into them and live them out without holding onto anything.
• To reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis and of heart attacks, remember three things:
1. Eat optimally. Eating a bit less does not do much harm but overeating does.
2. Reduce the percentage of calories derived from fat.
3. Shift from saturated animal fats to unsaturated vegetable fats.
• A vegetarian diet has low cholesterol. Take more of seasonal fruits and cooked or raw vegetables. Some people find onion and garlic useful for the heart. If you are a non-vegetarian, prefer white meats. A high salt content in your diet raises blood pressure. Avoid.
• Serpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina), an Indian plant, known to ayurvedic doctors for at least six centuries, has been found useful in treating hypertension.
•Some useful Bach Flower remedies: Heather for developing unconditional love, Holly for free-flowing love energy, Red Chestnut for expressing truelove.
I am your physical heart. Since each organ of your body is dependent on me for a constant supply of fresh oxygenated blood, without me your whole body will collapse. Further I take away the de-oxygenated blood from every organ to the lungs where the carbon dioxide is released and the oxygen absorbed. The moment I stop beating, you are declared dead.
I am your emotional heart. Without me, you will be unable to feel, to love, to experience joy, or sorrow for that matter: Unable to relate to others, you will become isolated and insensitive. You may as well die.
The debate between the two on which is more important can go on endlessly for each heart has its reasons. What is indisputable is that both are equally necessary for your well-being. Following concern over the rising incidence of heart ailments, heart care is gradually getting the attention it deserves. But the emotional heart continues to be neglected. New approaches to psychotherapy and spirituality, however, are trying to restore the balance.
So are writers such as Richard Bach. He would, in all probability, refute our belief in two hearts. For Bach, there is only one heart—the emotional one. Feelings dominate his words, taking precedence over everything else: ‘Whatever enchants, also guides and protects. Passionately obsessed by anything we love—sailboats, airplanes, ideas—an avalanche of magic flattens the way ahead, levels rules, reasons, dissents, bears us with it over chasms, fears, doubts. Without the power of that love…’
And for those of you with further doubts, try this: Physical discomfort (like a severe pain in the chest)? Check the patient’s heartbeat, says the family doctor. Emotional ailment (like falling in love )? Check the heartbeat. So who can say that both the hearts are not linked? That they beat as one. We always point to somewhere in the middle of the chest when talking about feelings. Indeed, often emotional pain, sadness or grief is experienced as physical pain distinctly in the heart region. Besides, heart and lung trouble generally have emotional causes.
This will not surprise the mystics who have always believed that the heart chakra, located in the energy body, almost overlaps the heart organ. Called anahata chakra in Sanskrit, it is associated with the higher emotions—love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, happiness and joy. And since the chakra is connected with the thymus gland, it gives energy to the heart, lungs, liver and the circulatory system. The word heart implies the most important, the core part. We have it on authority of Charak Samhita, the ancient ayurveda treatise, that the heart chakra is the home of consciousness. Its activation and balancing leads to the expansion of consciousness, which makes the heart chakra the basis of our growth as human beings.
The awakening of the heart center makes you extremely sensitive to human experience—your own and of others. It creates in you the virtues of sharing and caring, of putting someone else’s feelings before your own. This enables you to heal yourself and others. In reiki workshops, the master opens the heart and third eye chakra of the student to make him a channel for the life force energy, thereby turning him into a healer. The heart chakra also figures prominently in the twin heart meditation technique as it is taught in pranic healing.
The twin hearts refer to the heart chakra, the center of the emotional heart, and the crown chakra, the center of the divine heart. The two chakras are activated by blessing the earth with loving kindness. Twin heart meditation brings about a deep inner transformation and expansion of consciousness, leading to illumination, self-realization; a feeling of perfect harmony and oneness with God.
Reiki and pranic healing are not part of the medical mainstream—yet. But cardiologists have proclaimed that your attitude towards life and emotions is linked with the state of your heart. At least one study abroad reported that emotional strain preceded 91 per cent of heart attacks in people in the 25-to-40 age group. Similarly, studies show that people who are ambitious and competitive (called Type A personalities) and also given to anxiety, are more liable to have coronary heart disease and heart attacks. Emotions play on your physical heart.
Research has shown that hostility—along with a lack of social support and job strain—creates conditions for heart disease to develop. Since following the West, in India, too, the social system, and with it the emotional support system, is collapsing, the heart is likely to be the main casualty. Fortunately, while more conventional and updated I heart care is now available in specialized hospitals in this country, some Indian doctors have also been inspired, to replicate the success of Dr Dean Ornish’s program, involving lifestyle and diet changes and meditation and yoga, in reversing heart disease. And slowly we are discovering that one heart cannot live without the other. The atriums of your physical heart merge with the valves of your emotional heart. Together, they make a whole, and, it follows, a complete person.
Heart specialists will no doubt say that there is only one heart—the heart they see in the anaesthetized confines of the operating theater. For Dr Naresh Trehan, executive director of the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Center, Delhi, there is the mind and there is the heart. But, and here is the encouraging part, he concedes that the high incidence of heart disease in the West in the sixties and the seventies has led to, well, a change of heart. With dietary awareness and lifestyles changes, people there have been able to reduce the risks of heart disease.
‘That is happening in India a too,’ observes Dr Trehan. ‘Now the media wants to talk about it, the doctors want to talk about it. We have done enough research to know What the risk factors are in India. People are coming for comprehensive cardiac checkups. The awareness has already spread to the executive class and in another five years it will reach the entire country. ‘
Taking a cue from Chinese medicine and yoga, Dr Trehan says that in the human body there is a flow of energy, and when that energy is disturbed, there is a target organ which is generally the heart. Type A personalities, he says, are prone to not just heart problems, but other diseases as well. Dr Trehan, who does yoga for 20 minutes and vipassana meditation for 10 minutes daily, says that yoga is good for everybody, and that meditation is therapeutic. About diet, his recipe is moderation: ‘If you don’t pick up something that is floating ill ghee, then that is all you need to know.’ Delhi-based Dr Bimal Chhajer, who has modeled his Saaol (Science and Art of Living) heart program on Dr Ornish’s, agrees on the need to create awareness, but not just for bypass surgery and angioplasty, because then people will blindly opt for them, without knowing the alternatives.
About diet and lifestyle, too, he argues that piecemeal changes are not enough: ‘I see the disease process as 15 holes in a bucket; so, filling up even 10 won’t do. Change your entire lifestyle, not just stop taking alcohol or cigarettes.’ In Dr Chhajer’s program, patients, usually male, are withdrawn from their surroundings for three-and-a-half days to begin with. Unlike in similar programs in the western countries, he advises the patient to bring along his wife for emotional support. She is also familiarized with all aspects of the disease and educated about the correct dietary habits. Patients are taught a set of eight yogasanas to rejuvenate health. Diet is strictly regulated and medicines are tapered off.
Dr Chhajer’s innovation is teaching a visualization technique in which a green light is imagined going into the clogged arteries, cleaning them from the inside. In Bombay, Dr Minu Bhatt, who is associated with the Swami Prakashanand Ayurved Research Center, has started a program called Open Your Heart. Spread over eight sessions, it involves a low-fat diet, savasana, meditation, pranayama, stress management, communication, positive visualization and group discussions.
Often without even realizing it, a heart specialist now looks after both hearts, well aware of the impact of one on the other. For an emotionally sound person has better chances of having a stronger heart. Lt. Colonel R.K. Kapoor (Retd.), 65, producer of the popular Indian TV serial Fauji, suggests laughter to open the coronary passages as well as to open your heart to the world. He was diagnosed last month with 60-70 per cent of his arteries blocked and advised open heart surgery.
He attributes his ailment to ‘overindulgence’. Kapoor elaborates: ‘You become too involved in whatever you are doing, then competition comes in, anger comes in, and so on.’ For Swami Om Prakash Saraswati,in charge of the Osho center in Delhi, whether the problem relates to emotions or the heart, the solution is one: meditation. This is because a disturbed mind is prey to all kinds of diseases, he asserts.
Expectedly, emotions and attitudes have been adequately tackled in Indian philosophy, which is deeply rooted in psychology. Patanjali wrote in his treatise on yoga: ‘The mind becomes clarified by cultivating attitudes of friendliness, compassion, gladness, and indifference towards happiness and misery, virtue and vice.’ This is the middle path, avoiding violent reactions or cold indifference when faced with various life crises or when handling our relationships.
Most people take fairly good care of their physical self and many cultivate their mental side too, but they tend to neglect, repress and thus cripple the growth of their emotional nature. There is some sensible advice on harnessing emotions for personal growth in The Pathwork of Self-Transformation, a book based on the lectures avowedly given by a disincarnate being, simply known as the Guide, and channeled by Eva Pierrakos, an American woman who promoted the pathwork before her death in 1979.
The Guide affirms that becoming aware of what you feel and expressing it in a direct way without finding reasons and excuses is the way to hasten the growth process. Healthy and strong emotions make intuition reliable and then you don’t have to live by mental faculties alone. The properly functioning emotional faculty is a necessity even in creativity, which is not a mere mental process. The proof:Most creative artists and performers are highly sensitive and emotional beings. The Guide considers spiritual growth to be synonymous with love.
How can you love if you are neglecting your emotional processes, he asks spiritual seekers who choose to be ‘detached ‘ from the work day world around them. Emotions have also been recognized as playing a major role in success in life. Daniel Goleman has argued in his recent book, Emotional Intelligence, that more than IQ, it is the emotional quotient (EQ) that determines an individual’s success. Norman Vincent Peale, the celebrated success writer, while citing burning desire as a key factor in getting what you want, also believed that if the desire is given an emotional charge, it produces remarkable results.
Many of us suppress our emotions in the mistaken belief that ‘If I didn’t feel anything, I wouldn’t suffer’. But, by doing this, not only are we unable to avoid unhappiness, but we also numb our feeling capacity for both pain and pleasure. Meera Kotak, a Bangalore-based reiki master, says that our problem is not managing but having feelings. We need to learn how to feel. This is because right since childhood, we are trained to negate our feelings by being told repeatedly that ‘you shouldn’t feel that way’ or by not being allowed to express feelings. The bottled-up feelings, accumulated over years, cause most physical and mental problems.
The solution is to consciously reverse the process. Learn to feel and to fully express your emotions. Kotak even suggests that you can help others by letting them talk about how they feel, by just listening without censuring or even reacting. Usha Kala, director of Sumaitri, a crisis intervention center in Delhi, agrees. She says that volunteers at Sumaitri help suicidal callers by just listening, total listening, without judgment or interference. Talking helps in ventilating emotions like anger, she explains. Kala does not agree that people in India are losing touch with their feelings, but yes, the avenues of expressing them and emotional support systems are shrinking.
It is often that people, busy with their own lives, try to run away from someone who wants to talk about his problems, she points out. We tend to particularly suppress the so-called negative emotions—sadness, hurt, anger, fear, despair. Shakti Gawain writes in Living in the Light that people avoid experiencing negative emotions fearing that they will be overwhelmed and remain stuck there forever. She asserts that the opposite is true: ‘When you are willing to fully experience a particular feeling, the blocked energy releases quickly and the feeling dissolves. ‘
Rejecting the pigeonholing of feelings into positive or negative categories, she considers all feelings to be ‘part of the wonderful, ever-changing sensation of being alive’. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master known for promoting mindfulness meditation in the West, gives instructions on transforming unpleasant feelings in his book Peace is Every Step: ‘If we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection and nonviolence, we can transform them into a kind of energy that is healthy and has the capacity to nourish us.’
Being in love is another evidence of how both your hearts coexist. The physical heart feels the pain; the emotional heart experiences it. For love is undeniably the highest and the most potent emotion as it purifies; exalts and elevates; it is also the most misunderstood. In modern times, when people talk of love, it is almost always romantic love, between man and woman. Still worse, now they talk about relationships, not even love. But, as Osho says: ‘Love is not relationship. It is a state of consciousness. Love does not happen because of relationships, relationships happen because of love.’
Aparna Jha, meditation teacher and pastlife therapist, says that any relationship, whether man-woman or parent-child, can be, and ought to be, elevated to the level of a great love based on the brotherliness Of humanity. The only condition is that your love has to be totally unconditional. And you need to accept people as they are from the heart, she suggests. To open your heart chakra, to live from the heart, she prescribes generosity, which requires cultivating the attitude of abundance.
Whatever the amount of money, time or energy you have, go ahead and share it with the needy, acting as if you have it in plenty. In his book The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm lists four elements common to all forms of love: care, responsibility, respect and knowledge. Fromm also observes that the basis of our need to love lies in the experience of separateness and the resulting need to overcome the anxiety of separateness by the experience of union.
The quickest and surest way to self-realization or enlightenment is considered bhakti (devotion), which is paved with the love of God. The Sufis insist that Islam is Mazhab-e-Ishq, or the religion of love. Jesus Christ said: God is love. Mahatma Gandhi took a longer route to link love with God. He said: God is truth and it manifests as ahimsa or nonviolence, which, in turn, is practiced as love.
‘Love for all beings only comes from the acceptance of the Supreme Being, because we, being God’s children, are related to each other,’ observes Rajiv Vora of the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi. He says that love for people not related to yourself should appear as compassion and not mercy, which implies the other is inferior to you. A belief in God does not, however, seem mandatory for humane values.
Says Tejeshwar Singh, managing director of Sage Publications: ‘I am an atheist and I draw my values from a belief in humanity. Since we only know human beings, there is no need for external reasons for us to be respectful to each other, to help and assist others.’ He says that sometimes he doesn’t want to manage emotions. For example, he would express specific anger in a wider societal framework.
Makarand Paranjape, English lecturer at Delhi IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and a poet and writer, says that the health of the heart—for that matter all health—comes from self-knowledge, from a harmony between body, mind and spirit. Meditation and other systems and New Age eclecticism, he believes, give results but they are like fixing a leaky bucket.
‘Go to the heart of the matter,’ he suggests, giving the classical vedantic allegory of the serpent and the rope. The fear will not go until the rope is seen as a rope. So, too, only self-knowledge can dispel ignorance and false identification with the ego, the root cause of all human problems and suffering. Paranjape goes on to talk about an entirely different perspective about the heart given to us by Ramana Maharshi.
The sage of Tiruvannamalai used to say that whoever we are in essence—call it Atman or what you will, does not reside in the brain or the mind, it is in the heart. But when asked where the heart is, he pointed to the right side of the chest. Clearly, to the right of the heart and the lungs in the rib cage is open space. ‘This was Ramana’s playful way of pointing out that the final realization is that there is no such entity as yourself: jiva (the living being) is Shiva, just consciousness,’ explains Paranjape.
Let us forget which side your heart is. Forget numbers, notions, nuances. Choosing one from our two hearts is not a situation we will ever face. It doesn’t even matter. But the choice between the heart and the head is easy to make. Osho said: ‘Do not listen to the mind—it is never true; listen to the heart, it is never untrue.’ The longest journey you can make, it is believed, is from the head to the heart. It could also be the shortest. Just start living from your heart. Or to be more precise, from both your hearts.
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